Home>Highlight>Judge intends to rule on 10th district Democrats’ petitions Tuesday

Assemblymen John Catalano (R-Brick), left, and Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Judge intends to rule on 10th district Democrats’ petitions Tuesday

Republicans challenged 22 of 112 signatures filed by Kono, Quilter

By Nikita Biryukov, April 12 2021 1:00 pm

A New Jersey Administrative Law Judge intends to decide whether Democratic Assembly candidates in the 10th legislative district will remain on the ballot by Tuesday afternoon.

The Republican State Committee on Friday challenged nominating petitions filed by Garitt “Tony” Kono and Mary “Sharon” Quilter, intending to knock them off the ballot in the safely-Republican Ocean County-based district.

Kono and Quilter are challenging Assemblymen Greg McGuckin (R-Toms River) and John Catalano (R-Brick).

The filing, submitted by Republican State Committee Executive Director Tom Szymanski, charges 22 of the 112 petitions signatures submitted by the Democrats that were approved by the state Division of Elections were invalid.

The Republicans challenged 10 of those signatures because they were given by unaffiliated voters. State law requires legislative candidates obtain the signatures of at least 100 registered voters affiliated with their party.

Judge Sarah Crowley was unsure whether that prohibition would effectively bar unaffiliated voters — who can vote in partisan primaries by declaring their affiliation at a polling station on election day — from signing a candidate’s petition, though the New Jersey Supreme Court in Lesniak v. Budzash ruled unaffiliated voters could sign nominating petitions.

Nakicha Joseph, the Republicans’ attorney, argued it did, pointing to political party affiliation declaration forms required to be filed by registered Republicans and Democrats up to 55 days before primary day. That deadline is this Wednesday. Unaffiliated voters can declare their party up to primary day.

The remaining signatures were challenged on a mix of issues, including names Joseph argued were spelled incorrectly, missing or incomplete addresses, and on two occasions, voters who shared a name with another person in their residence.

Jillian Barby, a representative of the Division of Elections, said the office would not automatically invalidate a signature if a voter’s name was spelled incorrectly, so long as they were a registered voter who reported a correct address.

Missing or incomplete addresses made up the bulk of the remaining challenged signatures. Some voters wrote their street address but left out their town and zip code, a fact Republicans argue should disqualify their signatures. The Democrats pointed to the state’s electronic petition filing system to explain those errors.

This year is the first the state is using DocuSign electronic signing software for candidates’ nominating petitions, a possible mitigating factor for the address mistakes.

The voters could still be found in the Statewide Voter Registration System, and one signer, Stephen Dienes, testified he relied on his cellphone’s autofill function when filling out the signature form. He filed without providing his town and zip code.

For their challenge to be successful, Republicans need Crowley to invalidate at least 13 signatures, though that number could shift if the judge reinstates any of the three signatures invalidated by the Division of Elections last week.

At least two of those were tossed because of address issues.

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